This paper presents a review of high-order and optimized finite-difference methods for numerically simulating the propagation and scattering of linear waves, such as electromagnetic, acoustic, or elastic waves. The spatial operators reviewed include compact schemes, non-compact schemes, schemes on staggered grids, and schemes which are optimized to produce specific characteristics. The time-marching methods discussed include Runge-Kutta methods, Adams-Bashforth methods, and the leapfrog method. In addition, the following fourth-order fully-discrete finite-difference methods are considered: a one-step implicit scheme with a three-point spatial stencil, a one-step explicit scheme with a five-point spatial stencil, and a two-step explicit scheme with a five-point spatial stencil. For each method studied, the number of grid points per wavelength required for accurate simulation of wave propagation over large distances is presented. Recommendations are made with respect to the suitability of the methods for specific problems and practical aspects of their use, such as appropriate Courant numbers and grid densities. Avenues for future research are suggested.